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Wounded Warrior McIntosh looking to serve once again as US Open ballperson

June 22, 2012 05:16 PM
ESPN personality Prim Siripipat interviews Ryan McIntosh after his US Open Ballperson Tryout
McIntosh springs into action soon after the ball hits the net.
Ryan McIntosh served in Afghanistan and has since participated in a plethora of organized sports since his accident.
By Nicholas J. Walz, USOpen.org

FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. -- Shouldering a backpack ready to burst, Ryan McIntosh stood patiently in the sweltering sun, waiting for a chance to shine. Standing on two feet, let alone one, was chore enough on a day in which  temperatures soared into the triple digits. But McIntosh did it, and the Wounded Warrior made the most of his time in the big city.
 
"Sports have been part of my life for as long as I can remember," said McIntosh, smiling in his basketball shorts and cut-off t-shirt, ready for action. "I played football and soccer, ran track before my injury. I still play all the sports I can, but tennis is something I’ve had experience with once in a blue moon."
 
The young U.S. Army veteran from San Antonio, Texas, had a successful on-court audition at the 2012 US Open Ballperson Tryouts at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, quickly scooping up missed shots at the net and firing tennis balls on one hop to his waiting partners beyond the opposite baseline halfway around the world from where his life changed forever.
 
While serving in the Arghandab River Valley of Kandahar, located in southwest Afghanistan, McIntosh slipped on a pressure-plate landmine, with the blast claiming his lower right leg below the knee. His regular walking prosthesis is fashioned with a red-and-black Nike running shoe, but for the tryout, he snapped on the secret weapon he had been carrying around in his knapsack: a slightly bended leg with a thick rubber sole, seen commonly now at amputee track meets, designed to maximize speed and balance.
 
"I was in the Army for all of seven months when I got hit," said McIntosh, who was stationed in Fort Carson, Colo., before deployment to the Middle East. "I was on patrol and was dismounting. After the injury, I found enjoyment in flag football, swimming. I also play both wheelchair and stand-up basketball." 
 
McIntosh learned about the opportunity to become a US Open ballperson while taking part in the 2012 Warrior Games, an annual Olympic-style competition for United States Armed Forces veterans with disabilities, in Colorado Springs, Colo.
 
"The idea was introduced to me, and I was told that [Ballperson Tryouts] was a program that was open for a couple of years and that they thought I’d be a perfect candidate," said McIntosh.
 
One year ago, Denise Castelli saw action on the court at the 2011 US Open after acing her own June tryout. The 25-year-old New Jersey native also had her right leg amputated -- in her case after an accident playing college softball -- and also heard about the tryout through an organization designed to help athletes with physical challenges. 
 
"I went home physically disabled, but I don’t think what happened mentally disabled me. I've been a physical person my whole life, and I always want to get out and do things, and this seems like a fun opportunity," Castelli said at last year’s event.
 
If he makes the cut, McIntosh will be among the 150 trainees who will have the chance to be back in July for the final round of tryouts. From there, approximately 80 finalists will be picked to serve as ballpersons at the 2012 US Open and US Open Qualifying Tournaments.
 

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